5 music streaming services that are available and legal in South Africa

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Buying music? Pfft – that’s so 1995. What you really want is a streaming music service. Why own music on disc, when you can have access to an entire library for the same price as buying one CD a month?

That’s the premise behind streaming music services: you pay a monthly subscription of between R25 and R69 a month. Depending on the service and plan, you’ll either have access to unlimited streaming on your desktop web browser, or gain full access for your computers and mobile devices.

Currently there are four locally-available music streaming services, and we’ve got a quick comparison between them, below. There’s also a fifth section with a bit more information on the competitors that aren’t yet in the market.

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simfySimfy was first to arrive on the scene, last year, offering affordable, unlimited music streaming for just R60 a month. Pricing hasn’t changed since launch, but there is now a cheaper, R25-a-month option for those who only want to listen on their computers, through a browser or the desktop application. Pony up the full price, and you can use the mobile apps to listen in offline mode. Simfy also offers bundle pricing: pay for a year in advance and it’ll cost you R620, a saving of R100 over the monthly payment option.


The good: Desktop and mobile apps, tiered subscriptions, buy in bulk and save, free two week trial

The bad: Desktop apps use Adobe Air, no mobile app for Windows Phone

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deezerWe still don’t know what it is with streaming music services and made-up names that make no sense – but Deezer has endeared itself with excellent mobile apps. That said, it still lacks a proper desktop application – you’ll need to use a  web browser – and the Windows 8 Start Screen app sometimes doesn’t work.

As with Simfy, it costs R60 a month for unlimited desktop and mobile streaming. If you’re on a budget and bound to a laptop with a web browser you can pay R29.99 a month to stream its near-26-million songs. Alternatively, you can listen for free for two hours per month. Deezer also has great integration with Facebook, for those who like to get social and share their listening habits.

The good: Great mobile apps, limited free monthly access, tiered pricing

The bad: No desktop app, offline mode only works with Chrome

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raraThe silly name trend continues with Rara, and it attempts to lure with spectacular pricing: R6.99 a month for web-only music, or R13.99 a month if you want to include your mobile devices, too. Except there’s a catch: those are only promotional prices for the first three months of your subscription. To continue enjoying the 21-million track library you’ll need to cough up R33.99 for the web-only and R68.99 for the premium subscriptions, after 3 months. And, sadly, there is no trial mode to test it out: you’ll have to pay the minimum R7 for a month to dip your toes in Rara’s pool.

Mobile apps are present, but like Deezer there is no standalone desktop app aside from a Windows 8 Start Screen application.

The good: Attractive pricing for a short while,

The bad: No free trial, no real desktop app, higher prices in the long run

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Nokia Music +

Nokia-MusicThe Nokia Music Store has been available in South Africa for a few years now, but it’s only recently gained streaming capabilities. With Nokia Music + and Mix Radio listeners get to pick a themed radio station (from a healthy selection) and enjoy music from a certain genre.

Yes, this does remove the ability to pick exactly what you want to listen to, something offered by the other on-demand music streaming services, but you don’t have to worry about paying a lot. R25 a month is all it costs to get in, and enjoy a wide variety of music.

There’s a 7-day trial, but it doesn’t work in web browsers – it just plays 30-second-long samples. Load up the gorgeous Windows 8 up, though, and everything works perfectly. Sadly there are no mobile apps for Android or iOS.

The good: Great Windows 8 app, affordable, simple to use

The bad: Wonky trial, no mobile apps for non-Windows devices, no on-demand album streaming

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spinletThe newest music streaming service available to locals is Spinlet, a company with a colourful history. It started in Finland, in 2006, and then set up an HQ in San Francisco in 2011. Then it opened up regional offices in Nigeria. And now it’s got offices in Cape Town.

Spinlet has a heavy focus on making local music available, so the service has a ton of South African and African artists  available… for purchase. Although, it gets featured here because a Spinlet streaming service is in the works and will be available soon.


The good: Focus on African music, built-in music store for buying songs, mobile apps available

The bad: No streaming yet, no desktop app

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The others


Among launch date rumours, industry whispers, and requests from users, sit the following services. These are currently not available in South Africa – and may never reach ours shores, due to the archaic copyright laws the music industry adheres to – but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth keeping an eye on them. Of course, you can always get access if you feel like fiddling with proxies, gift cards, and VPNs – but the convenience of legal local services far outweigh the benefits of setting up an international account.


Probably the biggest name in streaming music, Spotify has a huge library, growing userbase, and even lets you listen for free for 10 hours a month. The subscription is a hefty £10 in the UK or $10 in the US, but for that you get offline everything, as well as the best desktop and mobile apps in the business. Music discovery is also excellent with Spotify radio. (www.spotify.com)

iTunes Radio

Apple’s quite late to the party it started with the iPod, but iTunes music works very well for a service that is still in its infancy. Best thing: it’s completely free (with some ad breaks) for anybody with an American iTunes account (or account in any region iTunes Music has launched). But you can pay the yearly subscription for iTunes Match to get ad-free listening on your Windows or Mac, through the iTunes software, or on any iOS device. (www.itunes.com)

Xbox Music

Microsoft’s music streaming service for the Xbox also works on desktop players, and the very-much-not-Microsoft iPhone and Android phones. Streaming access costs $10 a month and you’ll have the obvious integration with all things Microsoft. (http://www.xbox.com/music/)


Spotify, but different. There are great Mac and Windows desktop apps, as well as the requisite mobile apps for listening on the go. Subscriptions are: free web access for six months, or web-only access for $5 a month, or $10 a month for offline and mobile devices. (www.rdio.com)


The original too-good-to-be-true streaming music service actually used to be available in South Africa, but pressure from the music industry forced it to restrict its tunes to American listeners only. What makes Pandora special is its use of the music genome project’s data to help map out which artists sound most similar, and let users create radio stations of songs that sound alike, yet might not be from artists they’d usually consider. (www.pandora.com)



Christo van Gemert

Christo van Gemert

Eleven years ago Christo started writing about technology for one of South Africa's (then) leading computer magazines. His first review? A Samsung LCD monitor. Hey, it was hot news, back then. Nowadays he gets more excited about photography, cars, game consoles, and faster internet connections. He's sort of an Apple fan, but will take any opportunity to remind you about his Windows-powered home theatre PC and desire to own a vanilla Android tablet.   Currently uses: Apple 13-inch Macbook Pro with Retina Display, Apple iPhone 5, Microsoft Laser Mouse 6000, Audiofly AF78 Earphones, Xbox 360, Nikon D50.